Not Doing Enough, Deacons? Or Too Much?

I have been ordained now for over two years. Occasionally, I will hear a deacon say, “I don’t think I am doing enough!” (making reference to what he perceives his ministry to be in the parish or diocese).

Perhaps more frequently, my brother deacons are saying, “I have no time; I am over committed!”

Do you think you are not doing enough? Or too much? What say ye, deacon?

Diaconal ministry is not about always doing more.

It is about doing what is right in front of you with the grace of the diaconate.

Remember, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council envisioned the restored diaconate as a ministry largely focused on bringing the sacramental presence of Jesus the Servant into the secular world…. this means our workplaces and our families.

Regardless of what your occupation is, or the particulars of your family structure and life, our primary ministry lies in our occupations and families, not in trying to keep busy with “real ministry.” For many of us, our real ministry is being Christ the Servant in our offices, factories, union shops, businesses and schools…. all places where we work and to which we are sent as deacons by God and our bishops.

Those of us who are married know full well (if we don’t we are in real trouble) that it is in the context of our marital relationship we first discover our diakonia. We fail as married deacons if we forget or neglect this foundational aspect of ministry.

So the concern, “Am I doing enough?” belies, I think, a misunderstanding of the deacon’s call. We are not primarily parochial. We are diocesan and we are to go where our bishop cannot often go…. into the places of the laity who hunger for the presence of Jesus… into marriage and family life…. and we are to go as deacons conformed to Jesus the Servant and in the name of our bishop.

Then we bring it all to the altar, in service to the bishop, and to the Lord.

Then, we proclaim the Word in the assembly, and we baptize and marry and bury.

Then we teach.

Only then we are able to let our bishop know what the needs of his flock are, and how to respond to them.

Don’t forget that for which the Church has restored the Order… and ordained us…. to be conformed to Christ the Servant and bring the Church into the daily events of our lives and the world.

Evangelize where you are. You don’t have to look beyond what is in front of you.  Bring all of that to the altar, and then notify the bishop of the needs of his people.

If you are doing that, you are doing enough. We are full-time deacons, aren’t we? Always full-time.

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona, Minnesota.
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8 Responses to Not Doing Enough, Deacons? Or Too Much?

  1. Deacon Scott says:

    Dear Deacon Bob:

    What a wonderful and timely reflection! This past year, which was my seventh year as deacon, circumstances forced me to confront exactly what you describe. With help of wonderful priest, I was able to discern for myself, that is, specifically what you lay out here generally. In short, I was one who was, without a doubt, doing and trying to do too much. I still tend in that direction, but just be aware of my propensity helps a lot.

  2. Fr. Jim says:

    While I agree with the vast majority of what you state, and perhaps I’m splitting hairs, if the posting is taken in isolation I would be left scratching my head asking “Then why be ordained a deacon when what is described is something any BAPTIZED person can and should be doing?” Technically speaking, it isn’t the bishop who assigns a deacon to their profession/place of work, nor to one’s families. Those are both givens, which should enhance and support one’s diaconal ministry, just as one’s diaconal ministry should enhance and support one’s marriage and one’s work. The reality is, though, that in most cases diaconal ministry IS parochial, at least the sacramental dimensions are. Of course, in our diocese we have deacons who are not assigned to parish ministry that work in prisons, hospitals, campus ministry, etc.

    It seems to be that this isn’t an either/or, it’s a both/and. As a deacon and member of a parish staff the deacon should be able to take responsibility for his area of ministry, and like others, support the ministry of the parish (or organization, if not a parish). Let’s be careful that the diaconate doesn’t become one’s personal license to “freelance” in the name of the Church/bishop but maintain a connection to a larger body. I have seen, sadly, a few deacons that just want to do their own thing rather than try to support a larger vision.

    Having said that, I’m thankful for the diaconate and have been blessed to minister with many fine deacons.

  3. Pingback: Quote of the day, on deacons « The Deacon's Bench

  4. Carlos Flores says:

    Deacon Bob, I’ve begun my journey in answer to the calling of the Diaconate. For me in my diocese, this will be an 8 year walk. Your blog has provided me with affirmation that my discernment was correct. In fact, much of what I do now, today, is an integral part of my diaconate calling. Doing His work through my present vocation/career in healthcare with those that are before me now, not 8 years from now. To evangilize the Gospel, with words only if necessary. To those with whom I work and care for today. And to proclaim His word each opportunity that I lector, these days, not only those that I strive for when I will be privilaged to proclaim the Gospel and speak to it. In a very true sense, my calling has in fact, already begun.

  5. Deacon Bob says:

    It is true that most of what deacons “do” can and should be done by all the baptized. But as deacons, we are called to do these things as ordained and gifted with the grace of the diaconate and in the name of the Church. It is our sacramental presence through which God works in ways often unseen by us or others, but with the grace of orders, that is the difference.

    Most of us are assigned by our bishops to a parish. Many bishops also assign each deacon to duties outside of the parish, depending on diocesan need and the deacon’s particular charisms/talents. These are formal assignments most often well planned and defined by the bishop.

    But there is no doubt, at least in my diocese, that we as deacons are to minister to our families, workplaces, community and elsewhere… to keep our ears to the ground and to come to know the needs of the people, and to advise our bishop of these needs and to respond as he directs or expects. Hopefully, each deacon’s ministry is part of the overall diocesan plan of ministry. This is called for in the National Directory.

    I often say that 90% of my ministry is at my home and in my office at the clinic (I am a clinical social worker doing psychotherapy for over 30 years). The 10% that remains for the parish consumes many hours – Mass, Divine Office, hospital, funeral home, nursing homes, preaching every week, teaching, …..

    I am a deacon wherever I may find myself. In that sense, the day never ends. It is a splendid vocation.

  6. Deacon Bob says:

    Carlos,

    You and all in formation or discernment are in my prayers. You mention the process for you in your diocese is 8 years. For many of us it is (was) five or six.

    God bless!

    Deacon Bob

  7. deacon dave says:

    I am a deacon and was ordained to the diaconate in 1984, so I have a few years of experience.
    It is my guess Fr. Jim’s diaconate was less than 1 year, and without the added blessings of a family and a full time job.
    As a deacon of 27yrs I understand clearly what Dcn Bob is saying AND what Fr. Jim is saying.

  8. Deacon Bob says:

    Hi Deacon Dave,

    Wow! Twenty-seven years a deacon. Thank you for your service to the Church. The diocese of Winona has one deacon who was ordained in 1975 and still going full-time in ministry (he was ordained “very young” back then… got a dispensation to be ordained before 35).

    I’d love to hear your vocation story, Dave.

    Blessings,
    Deacon Bob

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